BP's Attempt to Avoid Gulf Victim Payments Blocked by Judge
Ahead of injunction, avoidance schemes also include a phone-in 'snitch line' and full-page advertisements
In a "harsh retort," a US federal judge has blocked attempts Friday by oil giant British Petroleum (BP) to temporarily suspend payments to victims of the 2010 Gulf oil spill—their latest effort to evade accountability and compensation for their role in a disaster which continues to plague both gulf residents and ecosystems alike.
BP filed an emergency temporary injunction Tuesday which claimed they are being forced to pay "hundreds of millions of dollars in inflated settlements" and asked to suspend further payments until an independent investigation of the claims administrator's office has been completed.
US district judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the civil case against BP, scolded the company for what he said were "offensive" personal attacks against claims administrator Patrick Juneau—particularly comments made by BP CEO Patrick Dudley, who on Thursday complained to CNBC that the claim procedures had been "hijacked."
As the Guardian explains:
Following the fatal explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, BP moved swiftly to set up a compensation scheme that it originally estimated would cost the company $7.8bn. Patrick Juneau, the compensation scheme's administrator, has offered payouts worth more than half that $7.8bn. Less than a quarter of claims have been settled, and new cases are arriving at a rate of 10,000 per month.
The company originally made payments from the $20bn Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) set up by former chief executive Tony Hayward after a meeting with President Barack Obama in June 2010. Compensation was moved to the court-supervised settlement programme (CSSP) in 2012.
Barbier had himself ordered the investigation, which is being conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, but noted that he did so to maintain the integrity of the claims process. Thus far there has not been any indication of corruption.
The injunction was just the latest in a series of attempts to evade payment of the multi-billion dollar civil settlement.
The ruling comes days after the oil giant established a 'snitch line' which promises to reward individuals who inform on collecting victims of the oil spill.
"Tips that lead directly to an indictment, a recovery of money paid, or the denial of a claim because of fraud or corruption may entitle the reporter to a reward," they promise.
Last month, BP placed full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post which accused “trial lawyers and some politicians” of encouraging Gulf Coast businesses to submit claims for inflated or nonexistent losses.